John Hirschauer is an assistant editor for City Journal and a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow at The Fund for American Studies. I invited him on the podcast to talk about the history, ethics, and politics of deinstitutionalization, which he has reported on extensively. In the first half of the conversation, John provides a detailed history of institutionalization in America, and how state schools for the developmentally disabled became so popular they ended up overcrowded and inhumane to live in. In the second half, we turn to the contemporary scene, where despite widespread improvements to these institutions in recent decades, disability rights activists have been campaigning to shut them down on the grounds that it’s better for the disabled to live a ‘real life’ in the community than to experience a simulacrum of life in an institution. We also talk about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, activist psychiatrists, and why naive theories of mental illness prevention doomed the community-based care approach from the start.
John Hirschauer, The Last Institutions.
John Hirschauer, A Failed 'Solution' to 'America's Mental Health Crisis’.
Robert Shavelle, David Strauss and Steven Day, Deinstitutionalization in California: Mortality of Persons with Developmental Disabilities after Transfer into Community Care, 1997-1999.